Lois Marshall | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Lois Marshall

Marshall won the coveted Naumburg Award in 1952 and made her New York debut 2 December at Town Hall. As a result of this recital Arturo Toscanini chose her to appear 28 Mar 1953 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Missa solemnis and in the subsequent recording.
Marshall, Lois, Video
Soprano Lois Marshall sings Beim Schlafengehen, one of Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, in an episode of the CBC-TV arts series Graphic hosted by Glenn Gould, broadcast on 15 October 1962 (courtesy CBC).

Marshall, Lois

Lois (Catherine) Marshall. Soprano, teacher, b Toronto 29 Jan 1925, d Toronto 19 Feb 1997; Artist Diploma (Toronto) 1950, honorary LL D (Toronto) 1965, honorary LL D (Regina) 1966, honorary L MUS (Western Ont Conservatory) 1989, honorary D MUS (Mount Allison) 1993. One of Canada's leading sopranos in the 1950s and 1960s, Lois Marshall began voice lessons at 12 with Weldon Kilburn, whom she married in 1968 and who remained her coach and accompanist until 1971. She also studied lieder interpretation 1947-50 with Emmy Heim. In 1947 Sir Ernest MacMillan engaged Marshall for the soprano solos in his annual presentation of Bach's St Matthew Passion with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). Marshall learned the part in 4 days, and although MacMillan considered her young for the taxing role, her intuitive understanding of it greatly impressed him. He re-engaged her for the part for many seasons thereafter and also for the New York performances in 1954 and a recording. With the same forces she also appeared (1950s) in Bach's Mass in B Minor, the Verdi Requiem and Handel's Messiah. In 1950 she won the top award in 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' and the Eaton Graduating Scholarship for the outstanding graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music 's Senior School. The same year she sang with the National Symphony Orchestra (in Washington, DC, for that city's sesquicentennial celebrations, her first of many performances there) and appeared at the Bach (bicentennial) Festival in Toronto.

Marshall won the coveted Naumburg Award in 1952 and made her New York debut 2 December at Town Hall. As a result of this recital Arturo Toscanini chose her to appear 28 Mar 1953 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Missa solemnis and in the subsequent recording. That same year she premiered Godfrey Ridout'sCantiones mysticae No. 1 at Carnegie Hall under Leopold Stokowski. Many other important US orchestral engagements followed - with the Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York Philharmonic orchestras, and many others. In 1955 she sang in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. In 1956 she made her London debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham in a performance of Mozart's Exsultate, jubilate, also singing and recording that season, with the same orchestra, Handel's Solomon and Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio. The following year (1957) she appeared in recital with Weldon Kilburn at the Edinburgh Festival and at the Royal Festival Hall in London. During the fall of 1958 she became one of the first foreign artists to tour the USSR, making the first of several tours of that country with Kilburn, and in 1960 she undertook a world tour which included visits to Australia and New Zealand, performing with orchestras, in recital, and over ABC radio.

Marshall sang with almost all the major orchestras in Canada and many others abroad - in Australia, England, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US.

Engagements in Canada

Lois Marshall appeared in 1958 and 1959 at the Vancouver International Festival; in 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1980 at the Guelph Spring Festival; in 1957, 1963, 1964 and 1965 with Heinz Unger's York Concert Society; and many times at the Stratford Festival. Some of her most interesting assignments were for the latter two. With the York Concert Society she sang arias of Weber and Wagner; the Four Last Songs of Strauss (which she also sang at Stratford and in 1967 with the TSO, in Toronto and in Montreal at Expo 67); and, at a memorial concert for Heinz Unger 23 Mar 1965, Les Nuits d'été of Berlioz. At the Stratford Festival in 1962 she sang Hindemith's Das Marienleben with Glenn Gould at the piano; she again collaborated with Gould in his October 1962 CBC television special, Richard Strauss: A Personal View. In 1965 she appeared again at Stratford as the Queen of Sheba in the Festival Singers' performance of Handel's Solomon. (She repeated this role with thrilling effect in 1972 with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) in Toronto, 16 years after her recording with Sir Thomas Beecham.) In the mid-1960s she gave joint orchestral-concert appearances with the tenor Richard Verreau in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City and with the baritone Peter van Ginkel in Winnipeg. Also at Stratford in 1970 with the baritone Louis Quilico, she gave a memorable recital of operatic arias and duets. She was a soloist innumerable times with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Festival Singers (with whom she toured western Canada and the USSR in 1977) and appeared with other major Canadian choirs and concert organizations. In 1965 she became a regular member of the illustrious Bach Aria Group (based in New York) with which she toured extensively. Her association in that group with her compatriot Maureen Forrester led in the early 1970s to a number of joint recitals - at the Jeunesses Musicales of Canada Orford Arts Centre; on tour in the Atlantic provinces in 1973; at Massey Hall, Toronto; and at the 1972 Guelph Spring Festival.

In the mid-1970s Marshall began to sing as a mezzo-soprano. Her lower voice always had been unusually strong and resilient, and since her repertoire already contained several works customarily sung by mezzos, the change was by no means drastic, excluding high soprano material but on the other hand admitting the French operatic mezzo repertoire and many important lieder in the original keys. Notable consequences of this vocal shift were her Toronto performances of Schubert's Winterreise (1976), of Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben and Dichterliebe, and Brahms's Vier ernste Gesänge (1977, with the pianist Anton Kuerti), and of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin (1979) with the pianist Greta Kraus.

Although she had been artist-in-residence at Ohio State University 1973-74, Marshall did not focus on teaching until late in her career. She taught at the University of Toronto 1986-97, and coached a few private pupils, as well as giving master classes. Her students included Monica Whicher.

Despite a national farewell tour 1981-2 with Stuart Hamilton, officially marking her retirement and culminating in a farewell concert 10 Dec 1982 at Roy Thomson Hall, Marshall continued to delight audiences and listeners. She sang in recital with Greta Kraus, including at the Royal Conservatory of Music centennial concert in 1987, and also with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in a 1984 CBC broadcast of Elgar's The Kingdom directed by Godfrey Ridout, in Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire at St Andrew's Church in Toronto (1989), and in various performances of Messiah. She was artistic director of Edmonton's TriBach Festival in 1985. After 1986, Marshall rarely performed but sometimes took on narration roles. For example, in 1990 Marshall participated in the Scotia Festival of Music, giving master classes and performing as narrator in Walton's Facade. For her final recording, she narrated Brother Heinrich's Christmas with the Toronto Children's Chorus in January 1997.

Opera Performances

While her career was mainly that of a recitalist and concert and oratorio soloist, Marshall sang opera as well. In 1949 and 1950 she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and in 1950 Leonora in Fidelio in radio performances with the CBC Opera Company. Despite the effects of severe polio at the age of 2, which made a full stage career impossible, her dramatic acuity, immaculate musicianship, and extraordinary communicative gifts and vocal powers (at their peak able to meet authoritatively a wide range of dramatic, lyric and coloratura soprano challenges) tempted producers to stage works especially for her. In 1952 she appeared for the first time on stage as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute for the Opera Festival Association (Canadian Opera Company) at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre. She sang in concert performances of Don Giovanni ca 1955 with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, and was Ellen Orford in the TV premiere (CBC, 13 Jan 1959) of Britten's Peter Grimes. She appeared twice with the Boston Opera under Sarah Caldwell - in 1959 as Mimi in La Bohème and in 1960 as Tosca, in stagings designed for her physical needs. She also sang Massenet's Thérèse for Stuart Hamilton's Opera in Concert series in 1976 at the St Lawrence Centre, Toronto, and the role of Filipyevna in a concert performance of Eugene Onegin with the Toronto Symphony in 1980, a role she repeated in 1983 at the National Arts Centre for Festival Ottawa.

Reviewing a Marshall performance, Kenneth Winters described her in the Toronto Telegram (3 May 1967) as 'one of those rare singers concerned more with the colours, tempers and strengths of the music than with the colours, tempers and strengths of the voice. She subordinates her glorious voice to song, not the reverse. And the result, each time she sings, is not just singing but music itself in the full range of its implication.'

Canadian Repertoire

Though not regarded as a protagonist of music of the avant-garde, Marshall sang, or sang in, the premieres of several 20th-century Canadian works: - Alexander Brott'sSongs of Contemplation in 1945 in Montreal; John Beckwith's Four Songs to Poems by e.e. cummings (commissioned by Marshall for her Toronto debut recital at Eaton Auditorium) and Great Lakes Suite in 1950 in Toronto; Godfrey Ridout's Esther in 1952 in Toronto; Paul McIntyre's Judith in 1958 in Vancouver; Harry Freedman'sAnerca in 1966 in Montreal; Ridout's settings of Folk Songs of Eastern Canada in 1968 in Toronto; Oskar Morawetz'From the Diary of Anne Frank in 1970 in Toronto; in 1972 Richard Johnston'sThe Irish Book; and in 1980 Harry Somers'Limericks.

Awards and Recognition

Lois Marshall received numerous honours, including a University of Alberta National Award in Music, a Centennial Medal (1967), a Canadian Music Council Medal (1972) and a Medal of Excellence from the Ontario Arts Council (1973). She was awarded the Molson Prize in 1980 and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1968. In 1987 she won the Toronto Arts Award for music. The CBC broadcast radio and television tributes to Marshall 10 Dec 1980, and in April 1983 she was the subject of a CBC documentary series, 'Hark the Echoing Air.'

After her retirement, various organizations continued to honour Marshall for her achievements. In 1992 she received the Roy Thomson Hall Award, and the CBC released a remastered CD of her recordings. She was admitted to the Order of Ontario (1993), and the RCM named her an honorary fellow (1994). Her citation for the Governor General's Performing Arts Award (1993) honoured her for 'actively demonstrating that no obstacle need bar the way to greatness,' a reference to the disability that eventually required her to use a wheelchair. In 1994 Marshall also became honorary patron of the Ontario Choral Federation. The Lois Marshall chair in voice studies has been established at the University of Toronto. Library and Archives Canada holds the Lois Marshall fonds.

Walter Homburger acknowledged Marshall's talents as a great interpreter in a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert program in 1997: 'Lois Marshall will be remembered as one of our greatest singers. Her marvellous ability to communicate her artistry to audiences throughout the world was, indeed, unique.'



Bach Arias. Bach Aria Group, Priestman conductor. 1972. 2-Desto 7139-40

Bach Cantata No. 51 - Mozart Exsultate, jubilate. TSO, MacMillan conductor. 1953-4. Hallmark CS-2

Bach Mass in B Minor. Bavarian Radio SO, Jochum conductor. Ca 1958. 3-Epic BSC-102/2-Philips 820-068-69/2-Philips 6701-015

- Mass in B Minor. Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Bach Festival O, Jones conductor. 1961. 3-Classics Record Library SRL-3623

- St Matthew Passion. Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, MacMillan conductor. 1953. 3-Beaver LPS-002/3-RCA Victor LBC-6101

Beecham in Rehearsal: Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Beecham Choral Soc, Royal Phil O, Beecham conductor, Marshall (Constanze). 1956. HMV SLS-846/World Record Club SH-147

Beethoven Missa solemnis. Robert Shaw Chorale, NBC SO, Toscanini conductor. 1953. 2-RCA Victor LM-6013/2-RCA (England) AT-200/RCA 60272-2-RC (CD)

British Folk Songs. W. Kilburn piano. Ca 1958. World Record Club PE-714/HMV ALP-1671

A. Brott Songs of Contemplation. CBC Montreal orch, Waddington conductor. 1954. RCI 116/7-ACM 20

Celebrity Recital: Bach - Schubert - Fauré - Purcell - Strauss. Hamilton piano. 1974. RCI 427

Elwell Pastorale. TSO, MacMillan conductor. 1953. Hallmark CS-1

Falla Seven Popular Spanish Songs - Purcell - Britten Three Divine Hymns. Kilburn piano. 1952. Hallmark RS-1

Folk Songs of the British Isles [and Elizabethan songs]. Loman harp. 1975. CBC SM-248/Marquis MAR-102

Handel Solomon. Beecham Choral Soc, Royal Phil O, Beecham conductor. 1956. 2-Angel S-3546-/2-Seraphim SIB-6039

Lois Marshall Sings Folk Songs. Kilburn piano. Ca 1957. Capitol Cap W-6012 (originally released on Angel)

Morawetz From the Diary of Anne Frank. TS, Leonard conductor. 1970? RCI 601/6-ACM 16

Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Beecham Choral Soc, Royal Phil O, Beecham conductor, Marshall (Constanze). 1957. 2-Angel S-3555/2-EMI CHS-7-63715-2 (CD)/(selections) 3-Seraphim IC-6138/('Nie werd' ich deine Huld verkennen') Angel RL-32144

Operatic Arias: Purcell - Handel - Mozart - Weber - Verdi - Bellini - Puccini. London SO, Pedrazzoli conductor. (1959). HMV ALP-1642

Oratorio Arias: Handel - Haydn - Mendelssohn. London SO. Bernard conductor. Ca 1957. Angel 35531

Purcell - Debussy - Barber. Kilburn piano. Ca 1968. CBC SM-30

Purcell - Mahler - Strauss - Traditional English and Hebridean songs (anonymous). Kilburn piano. Ca 1965. CBC SM-12

Respighi Il Tramonto. Orford Str Quar. 1971. CBC SM-188

Schubert Die schöne Müllerin (Kraus piano. 1979), Winterreise (Kuerti piano. 1976). 3-CBC Musica Viva MV-1003

Schubert - Duparc - Russell - four traditional or folk melodies (anonymous). Kilburn piano. 1969. RCI 333/CBC SM-101/AofD SDD-2155

Schumann Frauenliebe und leben. Kilburn piano. Melody 5904

- Spanische Liebeslieder. R. Sarfaty mezzo, Simoneau tenor, Warfield bar, Gold and Fizdale pfs. 1961. Col MS-6461

Schumann Frauenliebe und leben - Falla Seven Popular Spanish Songs. Kilburn piano. Ca 1969. CBC SM-31

Strauss Four Last Songs 'Beim Schlafengehen'. Gould piano. (1989). Nuova Era 2310 (CD)

Verdi 'Pace, Pace' from La Forza del Destino - Mozart Exsultate, jubilate. TSO, MacMillan conductor. 1953. Hallmark SS-1

See also Discography for Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

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